The metabolic enhancer piracetam is used in many countries to treat cognitive impairment in aging, brain injuries, as well as dementia such as AD (Alzheimer's disease). As a specific feature of piracetam, beneficial effects are usually associated with mitochondrial dysfunction. In previous studies we were able to show that piracetam enhanced ATP production, mitochondrial membrane potential as well as neurite outgrowth in cell and animal models for aging and AD. To investigate further the effects of piracetam on mitochondrial function, especially mitochondrial fission and fusion events, we decided to assess mitochondrial morphology. Human neuroblastoma cells were treated with the drug under normal conditions and under conditions imitating aging and the occurrence of ROS (reactive oxygen species) as well as in stably transfected cells with the human wild-type APP (amyloid precursor protein) gene. This AD model is characterized by expressing only 2-fold more human Aβ (amyloid β-peptide) compared with control cells and therefore representing very early stages of AD when Aβ levels gradually increase over decades. Interestingly, these cells exhibit an impaired mitochondrial function and morphology under baseline conditions. Piracetam is able to restore this impairment and shifts mitochondrial morphology back to elongated forms, whereas there is no effect in control cells. After addition of a complex I inhibitor, mitochondrial morphology is distinctly shifted to punctate forms in both cell lines. Under these conditions piracetam is able to ameliorate morphology in cells suffering from the mild Aβ load, as well as mitochondrial dynamics in control cells.

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